Friday, December 19, 2008



By Job Weru

The Luo and Kikuyu have been bitter political enemies for decades, but the two seem poised to bury the hatchet following a new peace drive. On Tuesday, a group of Luos from Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Bondo home district arrived in Kieni constituency, Nyeri, to much funfair.

Most have not lived with the Kikuyu before, but are now looking to a new life experience amid their ‘enemies’ in the coming week.

They traveled with Raila’s elder brother Oburu Odinga, who is the Bondo MP.

As they arrived in Nyeri, another group from Kieni was heading to Bondo for a cultural exchange and peace-building effort that aims at bringing the two communities together.

Bridges of understanding

Kieni MP Nemesyus Warugongo accompanied them.
The tours are taking place in Raila’s and President Kibaki’s home turfs, both bitter rivals whose disagreement over last year’s General Election saw the two communities clash in Nairobi and Kisumu.

Now, each of the group members has been integrated into local households to experience the other community’s everyday life.

"They will share beds if possible, cook together, till together and even share cultural lives," said Mr Guyo Liban, a research and logistics expert with the Centre for Multi Party Democracy (CMPD).

The organisation facilitated the initiative through assistance from local elders.

Unlike early this year when the two communities could not even travel in the same matatu, they would now spend a week in their hosts’ homes.

The project is implemented in a programme christened ‘Building the Bridges of Understanding’ (BBU), a project of CMPD.
Dr Oburu Oginga, MP for Bondo

"We expect that after completion of the programme, we will be able to unite all communities in Kenya, and put a permanent halt to inter-community wars," said Liban.

When the visitors arrived at Mweiga township on Tuesday evening, a rare occurrence rent the air.

Wine and dine

Dances, ululations and plenty of Kikuyu traditional delicacies were served, as the locals welcomed their perceived enemies. It is expected that they will dine and dance together for the coming seven days.

Dr Odinga danced to the joy of meeting and living with the community that has always been considered an enemy.

During the welcoming party held at Mugumo-ini Inn in Mweiga town, the past seemed buried and was forgotten.

"We want Kenyans to forget the past and join this dance of unity and co-existence. We are a nation and should always live to the words of our National Anthem," said Odinga during the reception.

During the seven-day visit, the communities are expected to live together in the rural setting, share cultural practices, meals, and carry out social-economic activities among others.

Liban said the organisation was facilitating the hosts with at least Sh1,000 each daily, for food and other expenses to avoid overburdening them.

Each of the ten hosts will also take the guests for church service on Sunday and Saturday.

They would also visit various cultural sites and tourist attraction centres in Central Kenya. The group will also visit the Sagana State Lodge, the historical venue where the grand coalition Cabinet was constituted by President Kibaki and Raila.

Kibaki and Raila’s secret visit to the State lodge in Mathira Constituency ended pessimism that shadowed formation of the Cabinet, following interference by MPs, from PNU and ODM.

The groups will also share several dinners, most of which will be served in traditional foods including mataha (irio), mitura, ucuru, (gruel) and Kikuyu’s traditional brew muratina.

"We want the communities to change their way of thinking, as well as attitudes towards each other. All communities in Kenya have developed stereotypic thinking and negative prejudgment of character, lifestyle and socio-economic engagement, most of which promote hatred," said Liban.

He added: "Kenyans do not understand each other, as far as tribes are concerned, and this promoted the viciousness of the chaos that rocked the country."

The visitors to Nyeri include two youth, two women leaders, business people, religious leaders, disabled members, cultural leaders and constituency office managers.

The effort aims at attaching people with their age-mates and those whom they relate with, since they are able to understand each other appropriately.

Two constituencies will be covered in the exchange programme every month, bringing together 24 communities in one-year.

"We are expecting to successfully unite 24 tribes in 24 constituencies in one year period," he says.

Liban, however, declined to disclose the cost of the programme, but said a lot had been spent on orientation seminars, and the tour.

"But we should not mind about the funds. What is of great importance is having all tribes in Kenya live together in peace and tranquility, and ensure that the ugly scenes we witnessed early this year will never occur again," says Liban.